July 7, 2016
By Paul Joseph, Paragon Communications News Director –
It was an extra big day at Northfork Correctional Center. Another bus load of inmates from other prisons in Oklahoma arrived, but there were a number of dignitaries at the prison, too.
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections Board of Directors held its monthly board meeting today inside the prison and approved several items of interest on their agenda. One was the official approval of Tracy McCollum as the new prison warden.
At the outset of the meeting, it was McCollum – at the top of the agenda – who welcomed the board to Sayre and to North Fork.
McCollum told the board members in his welcome that it’s been a hectic time from being the warden of the Granite State Reformatory just a couple months ago to becoming the first warden at Oklahoma’s newest prison, Northfork. But, he says the transition of bringing Oklahoma inmates to western Oklahoma has gone well.
The DOC acquired the new 2,600-bed prison in May and will spend about $37 million over five years to lease it from a private company. The prison’s acquisition is part of a broader cost-saving consolidation plan to close 15 regional inmate work centers.
Under the plan, 1,188 inmates will be transferred from Granite to Sayre, and then inmates at the work centers will be moved to Granite.
During the meeting, staff members reported to the board that 266 inmates arrived at the prison on Tuesday, the 5th and an additional 269 arrived yesterday. More came on Thursday as buses were seen delivering inmates outside following the meeting.
Another report updated the board members on the closure of the work release centers saying that, as of today, eight work centers have been closed so far and another seven will be closed by July 21, two weeks from today.
The opening of the prison proves to be a boost to the economy of Sayre as a number of local and regional residents have been hired at the prison. Northfork was closed in 2015 after the removal of California inmates from the facility.
According to the Oklahoman, the contract between the State of Oklahoma and CCA, Corrections Corporation of America – the owner of the prison – allows the state to rent the prison facility for free for the first 18 months. The following 3.5 years will cost the state about $37.5 million dollars.
Sayre Mayor Eddie Tom Lakey followed McCollum in welcoming the board members and also thanking them for choosing the Sayre prison, Northfork, to house many of the state’s overflowing inmate population.
During the meeting, McCollum was officially approved by the board as the new warden, even though it was McCollum that welcomed the board members at the beginning of the meeting.
Associate Director of Field Operations for the DOC, Edward Evans reported that the transition to fill Northfork has been challenging and a work in progress. But, he also added that the transferring of prisoners has been the smoothest transition he’s seen in years and has gone better than he anticipated.
The board voted to amend the state contract with CCA. Both parties have agreed to make the renewal of their five-year contract, an automatic renewal with no prior approval.
At the end of the meeting, the board approved the current Interim Director Joe Allbaugh to be the permanent director of the Department of Corrections at a salary of $185-thousand dollars, a boost up from his current interim salary of $165-thousand dollars.
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